Selected by Geoff Browell, Senior Archives Services Manager
This BBC television script of a talk given by Lt Col Pierce Joyce for broadcast at Alexandra Palace on 30 April, 1939 recalls his service alongside Thomas Edward Lawrence: ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Joyce was one of a number of British and French officers and officials who were dispatched in 1916 to help support the Arab rebellion against Ottoman rule and undermine this key German ally. Joyce got to know Lawrence well and became a personal friend. He admits that the problem of understanding Lawrence’s personality and achievements is ‘complicated’, but identifies Lawrence’s ‘unlimited imagination’ and tactical intuition as perhaps his greatest assets.
Tellingly, he argues that Lawrence’s ability to spot talent and to delegate to others as two important factors in his success. Contrary to popular opinion, Joyce contends that he was neither an excessive risk-taker, nor needlessly flamboyant in dress (among many criticisms of Lawrence was that he was a glory-seeking egotist), but that he chose both his words and his appearance very carefully – down to his head cloth, robes and camel saddle – to earn the respect of his Arab audiences. Memorably, he recalls the effect of Lawrence in full Arab dress as outrivaling ‘the splendour of Descendents of the Prophet’. Two accompanying photographs depict Lawrence in such dress during wartime and in civilian uniform at Southampton water in 1934, from the collection of his biographer, Captain Sir Basil Liddell Hart.